DkIT Celebrate 20 Years of Student Counselling19 October 2023
Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) were absolutely thrilled to recently host an extremely successful Mental Health Awareness week in celebration of the 20-year anniversary of Student Counselling in the Institute. This jam-packed weeklong event consisted of a myriad of workshops, mental health guest speakers, positive mental health tips, music and mindfulness, onsite supports and fun activities for both students and staff.
This vital service for students was founded in 2003 by Gertie Raftery who has since retired. Gertie was initially accompanied by Dr Francis McGivern, who is still an active counsellor in the Institute. Reflecting the increasing demand for the service, and the growing recognition of the need for embedded counselling services within Higher Education Institutes, the counselling team in DkIT has recently expanded and now consists of 5 professionally trained Psychotherapists and Psychologists, Dr Francis McGivern, Sarah Traynor, Melissa Mackin, Lorna Marie Browne and led by Dr Emma Carroll (Head of Counselling).
The counselling team are extremely proud of their ability to offer therapy that is free to access for all DkIT students, with requests for support being responded to on a daily basis. The service benefits from being able to operate without a lengthy waiting list, ensuring those who reach out for support are responded to and seen for an appointment in an efficient manner.
This year they have introduced a daily drop-in service alongside the appointment based service to facilitate students who may be in need of urgent support or who may want to explore all options for support before committing to the process of counselling.
Whilst the counselling service predominantly operates on a face-to-face basis, on campus, it evolved to be able to meet the needs of students in changing landscapes. Online appointments allow greater flexibility for students to attend, and the introduction of digital and virtual aids has enhanced the range of supports available allowing those who may not wish to engage with counselling, to access support through other means.
These additional supports include Togetherall which is a confidential, online community where members can interact with and support each other anonymously 24/7, Niteline which is a national service that offers a late - night confidential information and support line to students. Support is delivered by trained student volunteers who are supervised by staff from student counselling services across the country and Speak Out, an online anonymous reporting tool available to students and staff to disclose incidents of bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, discrimination, hate crime, coercive behaviour/control, stalking, assault, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.
Last year, the counselling service also introduced an evidence - based peer - facilitated programme called ‘The Body Project’ which promotes body acceptance, and a mindfulness programme for students, aiming to instil skills that can improve both wellbeing and academic performance.
The last 12 months has also seen the counselling service lead on the implementation of two national frameworks within the Institute: The ‘Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment’, which has been adopted as a campus wide ‘Respect’ campaign and the ‘Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework’, from which the mental health awareness week has emerged.